It’s hard to imagine a world without social media. Social media networks have really taken off over the course of the last few years, gaining traction in all four corners of the globe and proving to be much more than a passing trend.
The likes of Twitter, Facebook and Google+ currently dominate the internet as we know it – keeping us in the loop no matter where we are – and all of them look set to stay for the foreseeable future.
Facebook had about 1 million users back in 2004 when it first burst on to the scene. By 2011, the network had grown so large that its population was being compared to that of a country. Now the brainchild of Mark Zuckerberg has more than 1 billion registered users.
Twitter, meanwhile, is currently the fastest-growing social networking service in the world. It experienced a whopping 44% jump in users between June 2012 and March 2013, putting it well ahead of the chasing pack.
Google+ was second with growth of 33% during the same period, something which was fuelled by the fact that Google has gone to extreme lengths to integrate the network into all of its associated services.
So, should businesses jump on the social media bandwagon?
Good for business
Just under three quarters (70%) have used Facebook to successfully gain new customers, while a third (34%) have used Twitter to successfully generate leads – so it’s clear to see the benefits of a social media presence.
The fact the majority (72%) of internet users are also social media users speaks volumes. It proves we’re way beyond the stage of early adopters and social media is becoming increasingly universal.
Some 1 million web pages are automatically connected to Facebook on a daily basis, plus close to a quarter (23%) of all Facebook users – of which there are 1.15 billion per month – login to their account a minimum of five times a day.
We’re now seeing similar user habits on Twitter and Google+ as people want to feel connected all of time.
Forget window shopping
A trip to the local high street has become a thing of the past. Laptops, smartphones and tablets allow us to shop from the comfort of our own homes – and social media plays a big role when it comes to influencing purchases.
For instance, nearly half (47%) of people in the US say Facebook is their number one influencer of purchases – up from almost a quarter (24%) in 2011 – so the likelihood is that this percentage will continue to rise.
Modern consumers also broadcast their opinions and preferences via the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
Social media therefore not only builds brand recognition, it turns current customers into brand ambassadors.
Shared posts, followed feeds and linked content mean a brand’s website gets a boost in search engine rankings for even more exposure. Good reviews and positive comments also help improve the image of a brand – so no matter what product or service is being sold, a social media presence can work wonders.
Failure to jump on the bandwagon could see companies left behind, especially if their competitors are already on board.
Expanding into new markets around the world can seem like a daunting task, even for the more established brands. But social media can facilitate a move overseas without firms even having to set foot in another country.
It’s an effective portal to advertise products and services without breaking the bank. Consumers in far-flung destinations will be able to access content at the touch of a button, so the opportunities are endless.
Here are three examples of brands that have gained a foothold in foreign markets using different social media strategies.
Ariel, a marketing line of laundry detergents made by Procter & Gamble in the US, used an innovative social media campaign to promote the brand in Sweden in 2011.
It set up a robotic installation in Stockholm’s Central Station. Facebook users were then invited to log in and remotely shoot ‘stain guns’ at a thousand designer shirts in order to ‘aim, stain and win a shirt’.
The shirts were washed with Ariel and sent to the winners.
Topshop, a UK-based fashion retailer, teamed up with Facebook to stream its catwalk show from London Fashion Week in 2012.
Users of the website were encouraged to share pictures of their favourite outfits with their friends as the show unfolded, while Twitter users were asked to summarise the show in the traditional 140 characters.
The show was reportedly watched by over 2 million viewers from more than 100 countries. Traffic levels to Topshop.com went through the roof, while several of the collection’s items were sold out within an hour.
Dell, a US computer technology company firm, is the primary case study when talking about social media marketing around the world. It has used virtual networks to transform its image and boost its reputation with spectacular results.
The ‘Listening Czar’ is probably the most important component of the company’s social media programme, overseeing all of its social media functions, while the creation of the Social Media Listening Command Centre has helped dramatically.
The latter listens, engages and responds to all-things-Dell in more than 11 languages, keeping global customers happy. This, along with the clever advertising of its products, helped it make $6.5 million in the space of just 18 months.
Don’t get lost in translation
Brands need to take language into account when using social media abroad.
Not everyone speaks English, while there are also many differences between UK and US English – the same goes for many other languages – so it’s important to ensure the target market can understand what is being said.
Translation is much more than simply putting a phrase into Google Translate and sending it out.
Machine translation is prone to errors and contextual mistakes, which can put off potential customers rather than engage them. The benefits of professional translators therefore shouldn’t be underestimated.